Lydia Tomkiw

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Lydia Tomkiw (August 6, 1959 – September 4, 2007) was an American poet, singer, and songwriter, best known for her work with the new wave musical group Algebra Suicide, along with her husband Don Hedeker.

Early life[edit]

Lydia Tomkiw was born in Chicago to immigrants from what is now Ukraine but was then a part of the Soviet Union. Her father Teodor worked at the local US Steel mill, while her mother Zenovia worked at the women's wear department at a local department store. The family lived near Humboldt Park, at the time a largely Polish neighborhood, but which became mostly Puerto Rican by the time Tomkiw was in her teens.

She graduated from Lane Tech high school in 1977 and attended the University of Illinois Chicago campus and later Columbia College, where she received a Master's Degree in Interdisciplinary Arts. According to the poet Paul Hoover, Tomkiw "became interested in poetry in her first year of college at University of Illinois Chicago, where she took a class with the poet Maxine Chernoff", before transferring to Columbia.[1] She met Hedeker at a gig in 1980 with his band the Trouble Boys. They soon started dating and started Algebra Suicide in 1982.

Algebra Suicide[edit]

The band was popular in the Chicago area, and had a strong, if small, following elsewhere, especially Europe, where they toured in 1990. But while they enjoyed much critical success, financial success was lacking. Lydia purchased a club, the Club Lower Links, in 1991 with several partners, but within two years she was forced to sell her share. She and Hedeker divorced in 1993, and while they remained together professionally a bit longer, the end was clearly in sight. Algebra Suicide broke up for good in 1995.

Later years and death[edit]

After the divorce, Lydia moved to New York City in the East Village. There she developed a solo record, Incorporated, which tapped a number of avant garde artists like the Legendary Pink Dots for production and performance help. She also continued to write and performed her poetry at various readings around the city. She spent her last years in Phoenix, Arizona near her family. She died in September 2007, and was interred at the mausoleum at the Saint Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery in Chicago.


As Algebra Suicide[edit]

True Romance At The World’s Fair EP 1982

An Explanation For That Flock Of Crows EP 1984

Big Skin cassette 1986

The Secret Like Crazy (compilation + unreleased) 1988

Real Numbers 1988 (live at Link's Hall, 9 April 1988)

Alpha Cue 1990

Swoon 1991

Tongue Wrestling 1995

Summer Virus Night (live 1990) 2009

Feminine Squared (compilation) 2013

Solo album[edit]

Incorporated 1995

Published work[edit]

Poetry Collections:

Ballpoint Erection

Popgun Sonatas

The Dreadful Swimmers


Big Skin

Featured in:

The Best American Poetry

New American Writing

Walk on the Wild Side: Urban American Poetry Since 1974

Unbearables Anthology


joe soap’s canoe

Brooklyn Review


The Santa Monica Review

Thunder Egg


The Wormwood Review


  1. ^ "Paul Hoover's Poetry Blog: Lydia Tomkiw". 2007-10-22. Retrieved 2012-02-02.